When diet and exercise aren’t enough, a weight loss pill can help you make up the difference between where your weight is and where you want it to be. Weight loss pills, like many fat burners or thermogenic, work in a variety of ways; some increase your body’s baseline metabolic rate, others fill you up and tamp down on your feelings of hunger, so you consume less food, while others block or slow the absorption of the food you do eat.
Top 5 Weight Loss Pills
Who should buy weight loss pills?
Weight loss pills fulfill at least one of two functions. Either they increase your energy expenditure (through thermogenesis) or they suppress your appetite. Since weight loss is a function of burning more calories than your body absorbs, a weight loss pill can tackle one or both of these potential avenues to generate weight loss. Weight loss pills are great for people on a diet, as they are a natural complement to an exercise and diet-focused weight loss program.
If a more mundane strategy of healthier eating isn’t working for you, a weight loss pill might give your metabolism an extra kick to get in gear, or might help suppress cravings for unhealthy foods that are holding back your weight loss. Since staying in a state of negative energy balance (and hence continued weight loss) is often only a matter of swinging your net energy balance by a couple of hundred calories, even a modest boost from a weight loss pill can turn the tide in your favor.
How we ranked
The range of weight loss supplements that are on the market is staggering—it’s by far the most popular health-related goal promoted by supplement manufacturers. To come up with the best weight loss pills of the year, we had some pretty strict requirements. First, since weight loss supplements have historically been plagued by adverse side effects, we didn’t rank anything with ingredients with a poor track record when it comes to side effects.
Two of the prime suspects here were bitter orange and synephrine, which are chemical analogs of ephedra, a weight loss supplement that was pulled from the market after side effects including heart arrhythmias occurred. Supplements that contain these ephedra analogs have been linked to similarly dangerous side effects, so this is why products like NatureWise Thermo Boost and PrimaForce SyneBurn didn’t make the list.
Weight loss pills can help you burn more energy than you consume. Though they work through a variety of mechanisms, one thing weight loss pills have in common is tilting the calories in / calories out equation in your favor. Reducing calories can come from supplement ingredients that suppress your hunger or reduce the number of calories you actually absorb. Increasing calories out, which is the mechanism by which most weight loss pills function, can happen by increasing your energy expenditure or your fat oxidation.
Weight loss pills can speed the rate at which you lose weight. One of the more frustrating things about weight loss generally, and weight loss pills, in particular, is their relatively slow pace. Even a very effective and well-established weight loss pill can take a while to work.
Weight loss pills don’t need to have earth-shattering effects to improve your health. According to a study by Gerry Oster and other epidemiology researchers, a sustained 10% weight loss (which you could achieve by taking Alli for two years) would reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke and significantly increase your life expectancy.
A different study by D.J. Goldstein shows that even small amounts of weight loss–less than 10% of body mass–decrease cholesterol, improve blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, and drop blood lipid levels. All of these changes are highly beneficial when it comes to your long term health.
There are four separate methods that a weight loss pill can use to create weight loss. As for how a weight loss pill can help you achieve your weight loss goals, a quality weight loss supplement must target one or more of the mechanisms which affect energy balance. As described in a scientific review by Robert Saper and colleagues at Harvard Medical School, there are four primary mechanisms that a supplement can manipulate to result in weight loss.
Blocking the absorption of fat and carbohydrates is trickier, but some weight loss pills can do it. Alli (also known as orlistat), mentioned earlier, is a perfect example–it blocks the absorption of dietary fat, allowing it to pass through your digestive system without being absorbed into body fat. The upside of this is that you can lose weight even if your diet isn’t what it needs to be.
White kidney bean extract is an example of a carbohydrate absorption blocker: it lessens the fraction of carbs that your body actually absorbs after consuming a carb-rich meal. The downside of all supplement ingredients in this category is that they are highly dependent on your diet: Alli, for example, isn’t going to be effective if you are on a low-fat diet.
Burning fat directly is perhaps the most ideal way to lose weight. Weight loss pills that are hypothesized to be able to achieve this include raspberry ketone, green coffee bean extract, and especially green tea extract.
The different types of weight loss pill ingredients come with their own drawbacks. Thermogenics, when used incorrectly, can be dangerous, but high-quality supplements won’t use questionable ingredients or dosages. If a thermogenic is stimulant-based (e.g. caffeine), it may keep you up at night if you take it too late during the day. Satiety-modifiers, on the other hand, is fairly free of adverse effects.